Texas Rangers pitching prospect Michael Schlact sits on his back porch reflecting on Spring Training. "One tweets a lot when they're rehabbing. And I feel like I'm 10 years old again playing baseball."
They say you have to have a lot of little boy in you to play professional ball, and Schlact has just that. His passion and love for the game emulates out of his respect and care for his career, his fans, his teammates, and all those around him. After coming off of a near career-ending injury that lead to surgery and currently, rehab, Michael agreed to do a brief interview with me in between chronicling his "March to the Mound" on Twitter (clever), playing Words With Friends, and going to In-And-Out Burger with his wife.
Me: You were drafted in the 3rd round out of high school. Do you think not playing at a collegiate level helped or hindered your performance in pro ball?
Michael:I believe that foregoing college helped my performance in pro ball. I was able to jump right into professional competition, with the best coaches,against the best players. I think that helps you become a better player every day, because you have to rise to the occasion in order to compete.
Me: The Rangers organization, before your injury, was really into developing your 4-seam fastball to compliment your sinker. Any hopes of continuing that when you're done rehabbing or has the 4-seam gone to the wayside?
Michael:I will still use the 4seam fastball. my primary pitch is my sinker, and I will use that the majority of the time when I return. The Rangers were developing my 4seam fastball to help me add arm strength, and give the hitters a different look.
Me: I haven't found a whole lot about your injury aside from what you mentioned briefly to me a few days ago. Can you tell me more about it?
Michael: I had 3 small tears on the backside of my rotator cuff, a small tear in the labrum, and some bursists. They cleaned up the shoulder (debridement) and then removed the bursa sac and shrank the shoulder capsule at the end.
Me: I've heard your sinker is your go-to pitch, but that you have trouble with letting it go high. Is keeping it down in the zone something you struggle with?
Michael:I don't think that I have trouble keeping it down, but in the past, I had some trouble trusting the pitch. Pitching is all about trusting your stuff to do what it's meant to do. When you don't do that, and you try and aim your pitches, they will usually not do what they are meant to do. a big focus on mine is trusting my sinker to go down in the zone, and I will work on that tirelessly when I return to pitching.
Me: How is life on the road being married? I know your faith in God means a lot to you, does that help you deal with the distance?
Michael:My faith in God is key in dealing with being away from my family. Fortunately, my wife can travel with me during the season. Being married is tough as a ballplayer, because we move around a lot, I leave for long roadtrips, and sometimes living conditions in the minors are less than favorable. She is such a blessing for me though. She supports my dream, and has been by my side through everything.
Me: Tell me about one of your most fun moments in either Spring Training or during your time in the minors.
Michael:I think playing in the Championship series with the Frisco Roughriders in 2008 was my most fun moment in Pro Ball. We made it all the way to the final game of the series, where it's either win and you're champs, or lose and you're not. There is something fun and exciting about playing for all the marbles.
Me: What have you been doing during your rehab? What % would you put your health at today?
Michael: I have been working out every day, and running a lot. The key to returning healthy is to be stronger than you've ever been before. I do shoulder routines each day, that compliment my workouts. I told myself that I will never go through this again, so being as strong as I possibly can is the only option. I would say that I'm 70-75% right now.
Me: Aside from rehabbing this spring training, what are you working on fine-tuning, especially with your secondary pitches?
Michael: Once I get to the mound again, I'm going to work on my mental side of pitching. Trusting my stuff, being a competitor, focusing on one pitch at a time, rather than who the next 8 hitters are. My slider could be much better, and I can also make my change up be a lot more consistent down in the zone.
Me: What do you think your biggest fault is as a pitcher?
Michael:It would have to be giving the hitter too much credit. One of my favorite baseball quotes is "the ball is round, the bat is round, but you have to hit it square." There are many great hitters that play this game. But, just like pitching, it's very hard to hit. If I can control the mental side of my game that will help me become a much better pitcher.
Me: What benefits you most as a pitcher?
Michael: I think my height. Creating a downward angle on pitches definitely adds a whole new look to pitching versus pitches that come in flat.
Me: What do you love most about the Rangers organization?
Michael: I love that Nolan Ryan is our president, and that he has a huge hand in the pitching department. Having the greatest pitcher to ever play as one of your leaders in the pitching department is the coolest. Also, they only hire the best. Everyone is our organization is a class act. They are knowledgeable and want the best for us.
Me: You were being developed primarily as a starting pitcher, will it be the same when you finish rehabbing?
Michael: I haven't heard much about what my role will be when I return. I guess right now I'm focusing on just getting healthy. I want to pitch in the big leagues, so whatever role they think will get me there, I'll take.
Me: My favorite question to end with- Who is your favorite ballplayer of all time, and why?
Michael:My favorite ballplayer of all time would probably be John Smoltz. He is a warrior on the mound, a great person, and he'll do whatever it takes to win. He's one of my childhood heros.